TORONTO, ON. – Team Canada Men’s Wheelchair Basketball team captain Bo Hedges is drawing on all the experience he’s gained in three trips to the Paralympic Games.
In his preparations for a fourth, Hedges says the summer has flown by.
“It’s been a funny summer. I’ve been through this a few times, obviously. Every summer we centralize and have a qualifier or World Championship, so we have a lot going on,” said Hedges. “I don’t want to say summers get long, but there’s a lot of basketball. This summer seems like it’s flown by, from May through June, July and here into August, so it’s moving pretty quick.”
Through his years of experience, Hedges says it’s important to take care of the little details before leaving.
“You remind guys to take care of things like car insurance, little details so that you’re not worrying about it in Japan, or scrambling three days before the flight.”
Preparations for Tokyo 2020 have been different, says Hedges.
“Because of all the COVID-19 restrictions, and having to get our travel plan approved by the Canadian Paralympic Committee, and then the Japanese government, it’s been a little different. We all realize that it’s a challenging time, and you just kind of roll with the punches.”
With so many different things going on, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Hedges finds it useful to take moments away for himself.
“There’s the pressure of basketball, pressure of travel, family stuff, media, and a lot of that just gets a little bit more amplified this year with the Games. Definitely taking those moments to get away from the guys and have my own kind of quiet time at home.”
Life in the bubble will not come as a shock to Hedges, or Team Canada, who have been living and training together in Toronto all summer, thanks to a High-Performance Exemption.
“We’ve almost been doing that mini bubble experience, even though we’re living in Toronto for the last while, we’ve been on lockdown here more than almost anywhere else in Canada. I think that will help us when we get to Tokyo for sure, but there’s going to be a ton of different distractions there, and more athletes that are going through the same thing.”
In the leadup to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, much has been criticized in the media, as it often does. Whether it was Zika virus concerns In Rio or games without spectators in Tokyo, Hedges remains focused on the basketball.
“Obviously it would be great for the Japanese people if they could come watch and experience it with us, but that’s not the case. I try not to dwell on the things that have been taken away, and I just focus on the basketball and the opportunity there for us as a team and as Canadian athletes.”
With wheelchair basketball being one of the most competitive sports, Hedges says it’s an honour just to represent your country. Still, he has high hopes for Team Canada.
“Wheelchair basketball has about 16 to 18 really good men’s teams in the world, and only 12 make it to the Paralympics. Our goal is to get out of the round-robin play and hopefully be somewhere in the middle of the top four in the pool, and then play a competitive quarterfinal and see where it goes from there.”
Team Canada will leave Toronto for Detroit, where they will fly to Nagoya on August 13th. After getting used to the time change and getting some final training sessions, they will move into the athlete village on the 20th or 21st of August.
Team Canada’s first game is against Spain on August 26th.
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